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Kschaefer3August 1st, 2014, 12:27 pm
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
I still can't believe this actually happened, but I now have photographic evidence.

I was camping on a river that a friend told me to fish. It was my first day there. I pulled in to the boat launch/foot access site/campground around noon. I setup shop, ate, geared up and went fishing. I waded upstream for about 5 hours with no luck. I tossed caddis and general mayfly patterns, thinking I wouldn't need to be too sophisticated for mountain cutties. I walked by scratching my head, but wasn't too concerned. When I got back, I met a nice older gentleman named Tom. We shot the shit for a bit, then he went fishing.

About the time Tom came back, I saw consistent rising on the opposite bank. I offered the spot to Tom, who declined, so I decided to give it a go. I suited up, tied on a #18 elk hair caddis (they were everywhere) and went to work. Tom sat in his waders and watched as I edged out from the boat launch into the deeper faster current. I got out far enough so my casts weren't in the trees, but I could still hit the opposite bank. My 5th cast was straight across the river, tight to the bank. I kicked a big mend upstream and let it drift. As it drifted, I saw the fly disappear and set the hook.

Once I felt the fish, I started back stepping. The water I was in was waist deep and pretty quick. I figured it would be easier to land a fish in shallower, calmer water. The fish was putting up a pretty damn good fight. At first I thought it was a nice cuttie, 16-18", that just wanted to fight hard in the fast current. Tom started asking me if the fish was nice, or it was just the current. Right as I finished reeling up all my slack, and telling Tom it was decent, but just the current, the fish got pissed off and ran. I had my drag set for big Missouri River fish and 5X tippet luckily, so I just let the fish run. I was damn near into my backing when I felt the fish ease up ever so slightly. I knew if I was going to win this battle in the current, I needed to take any inch I could. The fish started coming back toward me really slowly. I took it easy, not wanting to lose the fish. At this point, I had no clue what I was tied into, but was thinking 20"+ for sure.

On the downstream side of the boat launch was an overhanging tree. The bank was severely undercut. Since I was standing in the little cove at the boat launch, I had no option but to bring the fish directly upstream right next to the undercut. Doing what big fish do, he decided to thrash in the undercut. I kept him on the reel, kept steady pressure, and eventually got him to come out. Crisis averted. At the point that the fish dove for the undercut, I had an idea of what I was tied into, but had yet to see the fish. I inched the fish in until it was right near my feet. I had my net in hand, but couldn't lift the fish off the bottom for the life of me. As I dipped my net in the water, the fish got pissed again and ran. That was the first time I actually saw the fish.

Whenever I fish a brown/brook trout stream, I always look for white on the leading edge of the fin to identify the fish in the water. When I saw this fish, all I saw was a white leading edge on the fin. I knew this was no brookie though, I had miraculously hooked into a bull trout. I almost flipped. My first guess was that this fish was in the 24" range. A big fish, but not huge for a bullie. Either way, I knew I had to get that fish in. I pitched my net on shore and asked Tom, still donning waders, if he would net the fish for me. He agreed and got in the water. Three times I got the fish close to Tom, but it just wouldn't come up high enough for him to net. After the last attempt, Tom look at me and said, "I don't think this fish will fit in the net".

Not sure what to do, I got on shore and just kept back stepping. The fish didn't like people, but was tired and wanted the fight to end. After what felt like eternity, but was likely 5-10 minutes, I beached the fish. Tom went over, scooped it in the net, and the fight was finally over.

I took the net, unhooked the fish and admired it. Not wanting to lose the fish, or kill it keeping it out of the water, I asked Tom to take pictures. He was more than happy to oblige. After a few quick shots, I turned around to release the fish. I was nervous because the fish was reviving slow, but I just kept it in the water until I could feel it get it's strength back. Finally I let go and it slowly swam back to where it came from.

While Tom was grabbing the camera I measured the fish against my net. My net is 26" in total length. The whole tail was laying past the net. I measured against my hand how much of the tail was off the net then measured my hand later. Obviously the measurement isn't exact, but I put this fish right at 30". I feel so lucky to have tangled with a fish of that stature. Even more so to have it be as rare as a bull trout. I have told many people this already, but I will likely never catch a fish that big on a dry fly again. This was a true fish of a lifetime.

LastchanceAugust 1st, 2014, 1:34 pm
Portage, PA

Posts: 437
Beautiful. Good for you. What a fish and a thrill.
Jmd123August 1st, 2014, 1:38 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
What did I tell you Kyle, you're no novice! And you did it on a dry fly to boot! Congrats on your magnificent bull trout, I bet there are precious few on here that can say they've caught one, let alone on a little bitty dry...

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
CrepuscularAugust 1st, 2014, 1:41 pm
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 923
Great story, even better fish! What self-respecting Bull trout eats a caddisfly? ;) Seriously Kyle, great fish, congratulations! Those dry flies of yours must be looking pretty good to entice a predator like that.
MartinlfAugust 1st, 2014, 4:25 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Excellent! Kyle, you may be the only one to accomplish such a feat--and if not, you are in a very small group. Could I get you to tie me up some caddis?
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
CrepuscularAugust 1st, 2014, 5:10 pm
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 923
. Could I get you to tie me up some caddis?

Seriously, me too.

do they look like a brook trout? ;)

I just noticed your net in the pics, ha! yeah you were not getting that fish in that net.
Jmd123August 1st, 2014, 8:24 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
Kyle, I just gotta say I love the look on your face, you're totally freaked out like a man on fire! Did you keep fishing or did you need a good stiff drink after that?



P.S. Were you able to sleep that night? If I have an insane wild experience like that with fishing I have a hard time, I just wanna replay the fight in my head over and over again...
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
GusAugust 4th, 2014, 4:56 pm

Posts: 59
Oh my goodness! That thing is massive! Great job!
"How do you help that son of a bitch?"

"By taking him fishing"

-A River Runs Through It
WbranchAugust 4th, 2014, 9:16 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
Yep, I've been dry fly fishing for fifty-four years and the biggest dry fly fish I ever caught was a 24.25" brown and here Kyle is on his very first Montana trip and he gets a monster 30" Bull trout. Congratulations! great job.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
PaulRobertsAugust 5th, 2014, 8:50 pm

Posts: 1776
Congrats on your massive dry fly bull, Kyle.

One nice thing about fishing: There is no ONE fish, or event, or reward, of a lifetime. Here's to many more.
CatskilljonAugust 5th, 2014, 9:10 pm
Upstate NY

Posts: 160
Yow! Congrats man, and on a dry fly too...that is really cool. CJ
Kschaefer3August 6th, 2014, 11:28 am
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
Thank you for all the kind words gentlemen. I knew there were bullies in this fork of the flathead, since fishing for them is actually legal (although restricted) but never thought I could catch, or even see one of these rare gems. That is why I was fishing a #18 caddis to rising cutties instead of ripping 6" streamers. Funny, I never put on an outsized streamer while in MT, but readily toss them on sidewalk sized spring creeks back home. I guess I got bit by the dry fly bug out there.

I must admit that the fly I caught this fish on was not tied by me. I really wish, but no such luck. I have yet to fish a single dry fly I have tied. There are a couple on my bench that I haven't decided about, but most have been cut apart to try again.

What self-respecting Bull trout eats a caddisfly?
I have asked myself this many times since I caught that fish...I still don't know.

Paul - Very good point. I hope there are many more!

Jonathon - I was 4 beers deep when I decided to fish. I decided to not keep fishing after I caught it and knock back some more. My decision to get drunk made falling asleep a non-issue. I did replay the episode in my mind countless times over the next couple weeks.

Kschaefer3August 6th, 2014, 2:09 pm
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
Kyle, I just gotta say I love the look on your face, you're totally freaked out like a man on fire!
That look is total disbelief. I was shocked. I still am.

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